The New Orleans Hornets are a very, very young team.  There's a possibility they could be starting two rookies under the age of 21 and the oldest starter will likely be a mere 25 years old.  What about veterans, you ask?  Hakim Warrick, who's probably the back-up small forward, has seven years in the league (though he's only ever been a part-time starter).  9-year veteran, and consummate journeyman, Roger Mason, Jr. is also on the team, too.  (Mason had one year as a starter, not coincidentally the only year he scored in double digits).

Warrick might get some playing time, though one suspects the Hornets are going to be more invested in developing their young players than feeding one of the two guys over 30.  With youth, comes inconsistency.  On the other hand, the Hornets do have a lot of size on the team.

The depth chart should look something like this:

C: Anthony Davis > Robin Lopez
PF: Ryan Anderson > Jason Smith > Lance Thomas
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu / Hakim Warrick / Darius Miller
SG: Eric Gordon > Xavier Henry > Roger Mason, Jr.
PG: Greivis Vasquez / Austin Rivers > Brian Roberts

Please note that the two primary 4's have been known to step in and play some 5.  Jason Smith, all 7' of him, is pretty big for a power forward.  Ryan Anderson's more of a shooter than a post scorer, but he's been pressed into center duty in the past.  For that matter, Anderson could play a little of the 3-slot if they wanted to have a huge line-up.  Of the probable starting five, only Anderson and Gordon really have experience as being the primary starter for a full season (and in Anderson's case a shortened season).

The position battles for point guard and small forward may be a little more contentious than people realize.  Austin Rivers was drafted with much fanfare and Vasquez needs to be decisively better than him to keep the starting slot.  This is not to say Vasquez is an old man, he's 25, but he's only been in the league for 2 years and started 27 games (26 of them for the Hornets last year).  Rivers was drafted to supplant Vasquez.  At the beginning of the season Vasquez _should_ be the superior point guard, but the question is how many minutes will Rivers get.  Should the Hornets fall out of the playoff race, Rivers will be getting a lot more developmental minutes, barring a complete meltdown.

At small forward, you have a very raw 21-year-old prospect in Aminu, a rookie in Miller and a veteran in Warrick.  If you wanted to win right now, Warrick probably gets the starting nod.  Aminu is young and finally started to show a little improvement towards the end of last season, but he's the very model of inconsistency and his numbers, particularly his shooting, aren't very good.  Very athletic, but the basketball skills and confidence may be a little lacking.  At 21, he still has some time to improve, but he needs to show a little more.  Miller had a fairly tepid summer league debut, but was widely regarded as a late first round talent slipping into the second round.  Warrick, the rare veteran on this team, is really more of a 3.5 'tweener.  While you don't expect 3 point range from him, he's the surest bet here, but the Hornets are widely thought to still be high on Aminu's potential and if the playoffs are out of reach, you know they're going to want to give Miller a shot.

Taken on the whole, the front court is OK-to-good, depending on if Davis lives up to his considerable defensive hype.  I'd call him a bigger Emeka Okafor, but that would probably alarm everyone in New Orleans.  If nothing else there's plenty of size there.  The small forward is a big question mark at this point.  Shooting guard is the strength of the team with Eric Gordon.  Point guard we'll have to wait and see.  Might be slightly above average, might not be.

The Hornets should be competitive on the boards with the scoring load falling heavily on the shoulders of Gordon and Anderson.  The x-factors are how much post scoring can be expected from Davis (Anderson will be more effective behind the arc if Davis can command a double team), how effective whoever emerges at small forward will be, and if Austin Rivers emerges as someone who can score like he's projected to _and_ run a team.

Pre-season is when everyone loves their rookies.  Sometimes rookies don't live up to the hype.  Sometimes rookies take two or three years to adjust to the league.  The Hornets are pinning an awful lot of hopes on young rookies.  For the Hornets to make a run at the 8th playoff seed, Anthony Davis needs to be a quality-to-superior starting center, Austin Rivers probably has to _earn_ starting minutes, and there has to be more production from the small forward position.  The Western Conference still looks like a rough place to make the playoffs.  Just ask the Houston Rockets about that.  The Rockets and Hornets have similar issues, though the Hornets are even greener.

Realistically, Eric Gordon is going to go nuts scoring and win enough games to keep the Hornets out of a bottom-3 finish, but the playoffs would be asking an awful lot of this inexperienced a team.  Middle to upper lottery is the likely finishing spot.  In two years, this could be a hot team.

NBA Season Previews
Dallas Mavericks
Houston Rockets
Memphis Grizzlies